Beware: cool stuff in NYC on a grad-student-friendly budget

Orientation week has ended.  Classes have begun.  One of our new students at SIPA, Joel Putnam, MPA 2015 posted this in our new student group discussion group but we thought this would be great to share with anyone thinking of coming to New York — the best city in the world.


It’s been great meeting so many of you guys, finally! Since orientation was (understandably) focused on what’s happening in the IAB and on campus, I thought I’d toss a few ideas to orient new New Yorkers to cool stuff in the city on a grad-student-friendly budget. Because if you spend your two years here and never go below 90th or east of Central Park, you are making a huge mistake (or, as we like to say here on the internet, yr doin it wrng).

First off, New York has a lot of cool sights to see, but you probably know about all of them. Statue of Liberty, Times Square, etc I’m not worried about you missing. The really cool thing about the city in my opinion is what’s happening here at any given moment. There are lots of ways to find cool stuff in this category, but my two favorite are these:

NonsenseNYC Mailing list— weekly mailing list with all kinds of crazy stuff going on. Music? Check. Standup Comedy? Check. Pillowfight wth hundreds of people in union square, bring your own pillow? Check. Much of what’s listed is a little Brooklyn-centric, but that’s kinda the nature of NYC culture at the moment.

The Skint Blog: Emphasis here is on free and cheap. Aside from cool happenings around town, it often features giveaways and other really good deals on food, drinks, etc. Posted daily with special weekend editions.

Aside from that, Time Out NY ( is also very good and is much more comprehensive than the other two. I find it more useful as a reference than inspiration, just because it has so much stuff that it will sometimes get a bit unwieldy. Also of note (though with less cheap and slightly male-centric slant) are Thrillist ( and UrbanDaddy (

Aside from those, some people swear by Groupon (, LivingSocial ( and other similar daily coupon sites. I’ve never liked them as much myself, but I’m not you, and you might find they’re useful if you sign up. Costs nothing up front and you can always cancel.

Don’t forget your unlimited 30-day metrocard for the subways and buses (yes it is overwhelmingly worth it unless you’re very very rich and can take taxis everywhere). Don’t bother with the “express bus+ Subway” metrocard unless you’ve got family way up in Kingsbridge, just get the regular card, it’ll get you everywhere you need to go, buses included. Finally consider a citibike membership if you don’t own a bike. I know it doesn’t come up to Columbia and won’t till we’re long gone, but it’s really handy in a pinch when you’re out exploring with friends, especially late at night.